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Biya’s Delayed Visit Fuels Economic Hardship, Speculations 

By Peterkins Manyong

Daylight economic activities and night life are gradually grinding to a standstill in Bamenda as a consequence of President Biya’s delayed visit. The delay has also set in motion a rumour machine that churns out more stories than perhaps ever in the history of the town about the possible cause of the delay. The increasing economic hardship is linked to the determination of administrative and municipal authorities to make the town clean and therefore worthy to receive the Head of State. To achieve this purpose, practically all hawkers have been swept off the street.

Those who have not transformed themselves into mobile vendors have either relocated from their former positions or left the town altogether. Business premises close much earlier than before. As early as 7 pm, petrol stations are jammed full with taxis that should have been working during the night. This is because night life is fast disappearing. Only commercial motorcycle riders ply the street at late hours since they are not as much victims of security forces as drivers.

The bike riders effectively owe their alliance to the City Council whose police operate mainly during the day. Because of the numerous arrests in places of night recreation, bar cabaret and hotel owners are fast going out of business. Owners of hotels and inns are in for worse trouble. Their rooms are usually empty as their potential customers are too scared to come out at night. Sex workers are really hard hit. Stories of rape perpetrated by military and security men have further worsened matters.

The economic situation has been further compounded by stories that all markets and roads would be blocked before and during the two days that President Biya is expected to stay in Bamenda. It is even alleged that there will be no mobile phone communication from December 1-10. It has also been rumoured that markets would be closed and streets blocked when Biya arrives in Bamenda.

Vincent Nji Ndumu, Government Delegate to the Bamenda City Council, has, however, dismissed the allegations that markets would be closed and streets blocked when Biya comes. He told The Post that economic activities and movements would be interrupted only for the short time, probably just three hours when the President comes.

The reason for the President’s delay is also a topic of much debate and rumour mongering. Speculators have said the President was too ill to come. It was only after Biya was seen on CRTV receiving Yaounde Archbishop, Tonye Bakot, that many of them changed their minds.

Others say he is too scared to come because of tracts circulated in town warning him not to set foot in Bamenda until Zaccheus Forjindam is released. The helicopter crash in Kribi killing three people including the Israeli BIR Commander is another reason advanced by the Bamenda School for Scandal for Biya’s reluctance to come to Bamenda. Numerous are those firmly convinced that it was a terrorist attack and not an accident that resulted in the crash of the flying machine.

Also, the sudden illness of the Secretary General at the Presidency, Laurent Esso, is said to have further scared Biya. For the de facto Number Two in the country to suddenly take ill on the eve of such an important visit has been interpreted as a development that has dampened the President’s former enthusiasm. Swelling the already high number of speculators, are those who think Biya may send somebody to represent him.

The most creative of the speculators are those who attribute the delay to the fact that the President has not yet been given clearance by his grandmasters (witch doctors) given that Bamenda had traditionally been perceived as hostile territory. The Biya Regime has not helped matters. Apart from stating that President Biya will attend a summit in Libya on November 29 when he was supposed to be in Bamenda and also be in Bangui, Central African Republic, on December 1, little else has been said about the visit.

This has left not a few persons with the suspicion that Biya really doesn’t cherish the idea of coming to Bamenda and may shift the Cameroon Armed Forces Golden Jubilee celebration to a distant date or send somebody else, probably the Minister of Defence, to represent him. All these stories have left Northwest Administrative officials and CPDM patriarchs perplexed and uncertain as to what response to proffer when quizzed on the issue of the President’s visit.

Needless to say that mobilisation by pro-Biya and Chantal Biya groups has slowed down. The situation has been further complicated by a statement from a CRTV journalist that Biya simply said the Golden Jubilee of the Cameroon Armed Forces would take place in Bamenda. That he didn’t mean he must be in Bamenda. As it stands, only an official statement would end all speculations on the issue.

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